Cardigan Mountain School: Training a new generation of inventors and innovators

For more than 75 years, college students from Cardigan Mountain School – a boarding school and day school for students in grades six through ninth – learned by doing. It’s hard not to do so in a supportive environment where they are encouraged to grow not only academically, but also physically, socially, ethically, and personally. New initiatives are launched regularly to broaden their horizons. Schools Charles C. Gates Invention and Innovation Program and Competition is one of them – it was developed to accustom students to self-starting.

Opportunity was first introduced as a “basement” program with limited tools and equipment, specifically to challenge sixth-graders thinking beyond the confines of the classroom. Over the years, it has evolved tremendously into a one-year course for young men to identify a need, innovate or improve an existing product, design a prototype, determine price, develop a marketing strategy and present their idea to a panel of judges. .

In doing so, students learn the skills to think creatively, take risks and be entrepreneurial. All sixth and seventh graders in Cardigan join the program, and eighth and ninth graders are welcome to add it as an option if their schedule allows.

Take current student Terry Langetieg, for example. He conceptualized and titled his invention the “Key Fob-Bit” – a tool designed for consumers who could benefit from magnetically attaching their keys just about anywhere to keep them safe. The process taught him more than a textbook ever could. “Three things the Gates program taught me are the importance of precision, how to make a product marketable, and how to quickly go from poster to presentation,” he explains.

Ideas like his come to life all winter long in Wallachian, Cardigan’s leading center for innovative design, applied engineering and the creative arts. Here, students use a variety of equipment to develop and refine their prototypes, all under the watchful guidance of Gates “coaches”. In the spring, students solidify their marketing materials in the space and hone their sales pitches for the Charles C. Gates Invention and Innovation Competition, held annually during Spring Family Weekend.

“What a great place, brilliantly used to host the competition,” enthused Dan Demars of Wallach. “Not only did this spread the boys’ inventions throughout several rooms, but such a layout served to invite visitors to freely explore the building and experience the incredible facilities available to the boys of Cardigan.” Demars has judged the competition for several years since its inception.

Prizes are awarded for first, second and third place. Winks like Best Presentation, Best Market Research, and Best Seller are also up for grabs. If a particular entry warrants further development, judges may award a “Patent Nod,” which translates to Cardigan covering the US patent application fee. This year’s contest saw two teams chosen to take their ideas to new heights – “Key Fob-Bit” by Terry Langetieg and Edgar Choi, as well as “Shampoo Locker” by Joey Huang and Charlie Liu.

The Charles C. Gates Invention and Innovation Contest helps young men appreciate hard work and achievement. Source: Cardigan Mountain School

Chengtian “Wilson” Yu’s “MagShirt” was not ranked, but it certainly left a lasting impression on the judges. The product was developed for people with arm or shoulder injuries who find it difficult to dress and undress. Yu’s solution involves magnets replacing one side of a shirt’s seams. A parent, who works closely with orthopedic patients, was quick to say that the invention would greatly address his patients’ concerns.

“As an educator, the most satisfying part of my job is seeing the pride the boys take in the skills they’ve learned throughout the year and what they’ve finally achieved by the time they they present their ideas to the Gates competition”, says Éric Escalante. “On top of that, it’s heartwarming to see the relationships that develop between students of different nationalities and backgrounds. Creating at Gates Lab is a great equalizer and unifier! »

Participants follow in the footsteps of Charles C. Gates, a magnate who believed that all children were natural inventors, unafraid to take things apart and explore new ideas. He himself owned several US patents. His legacy lives on today through his daughter, philanthropist Diane Wallach, who manages the Gates Frontiers Fund. The Fund generously and continuously funds Cardigan’s campus, curriculum, culture and, of course, the Invention and Innovation Competition.

If you think your son deserves the opportunity to innovate the next big thing, click here to let Cardigan Mountain School be his launchpad to success.

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